Driving on the motorway tends to be a task that many of us are not taught, unless you take a pass plus course, it is unlikely that you will have any expert training on motorway use. At some point, as a driver, this is a skill that will need to be conquered and fears will need to be overcome and most people come to the conclusion that motorway driving is, in fact, considerably easier than day to day driving. Before taking on the motorway, it is crucial that you are aware of the rules of the highway and how to be a safe driver while on the roads.
How To Be A Safe Driver
Before attempting to drive on the motorway, first, ensure that you know what each lane is used for. On a motorway, there are three lanes which in itself is a concept you are unlikely to be familiar with. There is a left-hand lane, middle lane and right-hand lane. The left-hand lane is for normal driving, whereas the middle and right-hand lane are for overtaking, you should never hog either of these two lanes.
Particular vehicles are prohibited from driving in the right-hand lane; these include vehicles with a trailer and vehicles over 7.5 tonnes. This rule is likely to have been covered in your trailer training or 7.5-tonne training.
If you are attempting to drive on the motorway for the first time or are experienced looking for some extra tips, keep reading!
Build Up Speed On The Slip Road
On the majority of motorways, you will join on the left-hand side from a slip road. Always build up speed on the slip road before joining the motorway. Increase your speed to a point where it matches drivers already on the lanes, joining the motorway too slow puts both you and other drivers in danger.
When you reach the end of the slip road, maintain the mirror, signal, manoeuver routine before you start to move into the lane. Always give way to vehicles passing by already on the motorway and move in when there is a safe gap. Cancel your indicator as soon as you join and stay safely in the first lane until all drivers have adjusted and settled, and then you can consider overtaking.
You should never slow down or stop at the end of the slip road unless the motorway consists of solid traffic where you have no choice but to.
Overtaking should only ever be done when there is a gap big enough to move into, and you can roughly estimate the upcoming vehicles speed. Before overtaking, always check your blind spots and indicate in advance, so all other drivers are aware of your upcoming movements. Rule 268 of the Highway Code states that it is against the law to overtake using the left-hand lane. Rule 267 and Rule 269 also apply to overtaking on a motorway.
Always Check All Mirrors
Driving on the motorway is more fast pace than day to day dual carriageway driving meaning that it is essential to make sure that you know your surroundings and what is going on around you at all times, including blind spots. Drivers are continuously changing lanes and situations can quickly change in a split second, so the use of mirrors is vital. Before setting off, double check that all of your mirrors are in the correct position and are clean, you will not be able to spot and adjust once you start driving.
Motorways are high speed, and an increase in speed means an increase in stopping distances. Tailgating means that you are driving too close to the vehicle in front meaning that on a high-speed motorway, this can prove very dangerous in the event of an emergency brake. If you are driving behind a larger vehicle such as a lorry, it is recommended to leave even more of a gap because it can be tricky to see ahead above them. Driving too close to a big vehicle could block out important signs and instructions.
The rule of thumb for any driving is that there should always be a two-second time gap between you and the vehicle in front of you, this also applies to driving on the motorway., Remember, this is doubled when driving in wet or icy conditions.
Take Regular Breaks
When driving long distance, it is always recommended to have a short break, minimum of 15 minutes, every two hours. During your breaks, get out of the car, take a stretch and get some fresh air, take your mind off driving for a while. Try to take some time before you set off to plan your journey in advance, including where you plan to stop and take breaks. If you do not plan stops, then you may end up missing a stop and then drive for hours in the hope that a service station will approach soon.
Breaks should always be taken at a safe, designated place, such as nearby services, which will be signposted on the motorway along with countdown markers. Never stop on the hard shoulder unless it is an emergency. If you do need to stop here, immediately switch on your hazard warning lights, stand outside of your car and call for assistance.
Driving on the motorway can at first seem like a scary task, and many drivers put off having to do so until it is completely necessary. If you opt to drive on the motorway for the first time, consider taking an experienced driver with you who can give you any guidance if need be. This will take off the pressure of having to do it alone, and you know you will have support if you become nervous. The great aspect of motorway driving is that you will see constant signposts and instructions along the way, informing you on speed limits, lane closures, nearby places and many more. Similarly to any other skill needed for driving, the more practice you get, the better and more confident you will become!